Photos: Motorcyclists ride to support children with autism

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Riders traveled from as far as Poughkeepsie to take part in Saturday's fundraiser.
CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Riders traveled from as far as Poughkeepsie to take part in Saturday’s fundraiser.

About 400 motorcyclists took to the road Sunday afternoon to raise money for a program benefiting children with autism.

Riders drove from Suffolk County police headquarters in Yaphank to Pugliese Vineyards in Cutchogue for the fourth annual Land & Sea Sports Club fundraiser.

The nonprofit club provides children on the autism spectrum and other developmental disabilities with programs and activities — swimming, surfing, sailing and karate —  that have both recreational and therapeutic benefits.

Bill LaMaire and his wife Maria said they started the nonprofit nine years ago for their son Christopher — to give him the opportunity to participate in activities with other children.

“There are so many families impacted by autism,” Mr. LaMaire said. He added that more than 500 families benefit from the programs, which take place at colleges and yacht clubs throughout Suffolk County.

The riders lined their bikes up at Cutchogue East Elementary School and walked over to the vineyard for an afternoon of food and music and raffles.

The vineyard donated the property for the event, said Peter Pugliese, winemaker.

Rider Bernie Woods, whose son Seamus, 17, participates in the programs said “the kids light up when they take part. They have their own thing they can do. It’s special to be able to provide them with that.”

Mr. Woods helped get the word out about the event, which has grown since being founded four years ago.

Mike Davis, who helped coordinate the ride said, “The cause is incredible. To see what the parents do and to give kids a chance to participate, that’s why we’re here.”

The riders were escorted the entire way with support from the Suffolk County, Southampton, Southold and Riverhead police departments, he said.

About 20 school-aged volunteers from the local NJROTC helped out at the event, assisting with everything from parking to doing crafts with children at the event.

“Bikers have big hearts,” said Kathy Ciano, who rode out with her husband, Jim. The Ronkonkoma couple said their godson Bill, 13, has autism and participates in many of the activities offered by the club.

“He does the sailing, swimming, anything with water. He loves the water. It calms him,” she said. “It’s a very important cause.”

To learn more about the cause visit the Land & Sea Sports Club website.

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